10 tips to succeed in your studies, from our some of our top Matric learners and Professor Jonathan Jansen, chancellor of the University of Free state

1. Stay focused !

If you have a positive attitude, you will remember better the information you need to study.

"Before you get into your actual studying, set your goals straight, says Sihle Gule (6 distinctions, 2016). It makes it easier to know what you want out of studying and by how much you hope to improve over a defined period of time. This will motivate you to study hard to reach your goals".

Kamogelo Tswai (7 distinctions, 2016) :Find yourself a role model. . My role model was Lucas. Because he achieved 7A's.I always told myself that if Lucas can do it, so can I. At the beginning of the year, create a list of all the things you want to achieve in matric. Paste them where you will be able to see them everyday,this will help you to stay motivated. Always aim high but be realistic.When you start to procrastinate, remind yourself of your goals and aims".

“My vision guided me since Grade 10", says Brillant Moyo, (5 distinctions in 2013). "I was motivated by Mpho Mashile, a former Eastbank high learner who became a chartered accountant. I also watched a lot on YouTube motivational speakers like Vusi Thembekwayo. You need a lot of determination"

Mbonjwa Sabelo (3 distinctions in 2013): "My teachers motivated me and competition with my friend Brillant helped me to achieve high. Church also helped me a lot to resist peer pressure. Because I did not want to go out with them on Friday and Saturday time, they called me names. Even if it was hard to study in my shak, it paid off."

Busi Mtya (4 distinctions, 2012): "The recipe for success is hard work, focus on one thing and be sure of what you want. If you put  your mind to reach your goal, you'll achieve it, no matter what. If you fall, stand up and persevere. I got teased a lot, called four-eyes, shortie, to a point that I got immune to the jokes".I


Mitchell Manamela  (Maths 78, Physics 79, Economics 73) : "In Gr 8 and 9, I was hanging out with a wrong crew of friends, who were smoking and involved in girls. My Grade 10 sciences teacher encourage us to resist to peer pressure. I realised that I was with the  wrong guys. So I made friends who care about school and from grade 11, I started to get good marks"

"There is nothing more debilitating than to have friends at this stage who are negative and who tell you to expect the worst.  Hang out with calm, positive people in the days and weeks leading to the examination". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)

2. Get organized!

 Do a summary of each lesson during the year. Start studying at least 2 weeks before exams.

Draw up a study schedule. Tick off what you have done every day. Study one subject for 1 hour (2 max) and then, take a break, do a 10 min revision and study another one…

Breaks are important as the brain tires after one hour and concentration can become difficult. Do some physical activities (walking, jogging, jumping..) that will provide fresh oxygen to your brain, cook, sing or listen to music, have a snack...

Balance out your subjects and allocate enough time to each of them. It won't help to master one subject and pass it with flying colours but fail others.

Sihle Gule (6 distinctions) and Xihluke Maswanganye (7 distinctions)- 2016 

     Sihle Gule : "A study timetable helps you to focus more on subjects you're struggling with. Try not to spend too much time on those you're good with.

    During the year, you will tend to break up your work into different segments. Keep studying as if the final exams are just next week. The most difficult part of managing your time is that there's not enough time. Always remember that what you are doing during the course of the year, good or bad, will catch up with you at the end. From simple SBA's to complex assignments, do it with the end goal in mind.

    Kamogelo : "Always study ahead of a teacher. This helps in a way that when next time you are taught, everything becomes a revision and all your identified weaknesses becomes your strengths. Preparations for final exams start at the beginning of January and not during October"

    Tshepo Kobe (4 distinctions, 2012) :"The first week of Grade 12, I revised all my Grade 11 math and sciences. Then, I  studied each subject for 2 hours, have a short break, and start another one. I did about 4 subjects per day.  Too many learners concentrate too much on Math. It is no use to have  80 % in Math and 50 % in life sciences. You have to balance the subjects. Also, during the year, my goals kept moving upward. You must set yourself small goals and when you combine them, they make big goals"!

Brillant Moyo : "Sticking to your own study plan needs a lot of determination. After school, I would have a quick lunch. Then I would start with the easy subjects for 2 hours (one subject per day). From 6 pm, I would do my homework and study until I go to bed before 10 pm. I also read my textbooks before each lesson to get a better understanding. Before exams, I would summarize them because it is easier to memorise".
"In the week before an exam, plan how you will spend each hour. Sketch on your bedroom wall when you will sleep, when you will study what subject or topic, and when you will relax with music or whatever works for you"(Prof Jonathan Jansen)
Brillant Moyo, Sabelo Mbonjwa, Fernando Sibiya, top 2013 matriculants

3. Get enough sleep!

Kamogelo : Make sure you rest enough but don't sleep more than you study. 

Mitchell  : "I slept  from 11 pm to 5.30. About 3 days before exams, 6 boys of my class would cross night (study the whole night) at the home of one of us. The day before the exam, I would just  do bit of revision and have a good night sleep".

"Many of you will stay up all night and try to push the last bits of information into your head. Bad idea. You need a good sleep, first of all, and cramming leads to forgetting. You should be planning which sections of work to study in advance, and go through each section carefully and calmly. Do not leave everything to the last minute. Cramming is not Learning"(Prof J. Jansen)

4. Study with friends!

Study with someone who is stronger than you in your weak subjects and with whom you can share study tips and help where you are stronger.

Fernando Sibiya – Minerva -4 distinctions in 2013 : “We were 4 in my study group. I did explain them the subjects : it helped a lot to revise and identify your mistakes”.

Kamogelo : "Befriend people who have the same goals as you. Befriend people who master your weaknesses, so they can be able to help you".

Tshepo : "We used “study masters” (revision books) and discussed the subjects together. As I studied much harder than them, I would explain what they did not understand. It helped me a lot, because what I had learnt would stick to my memory. But you have also to revise by yourself"!
Busi :  Don’t be intimidated by others in study groups, help out where you can. My group had specialists for each subject".
"There is nothing more motivating than to study alongside a friend who is hardworking and smart. You can confer with each other and boost one another when you get tired". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)

5. Be active when you study!
 Use active learning methods. Passive learners get bored and not interested in studying.     
"This is not the time to be embarrassed if you do not know something. Raise your hand and seek help when it is needed. There are many of us who would rush to help with a science or maths or language problem. Do not hide your problems". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)

- If you are a visual person (someone who learns best by seeing things), underline headings, highlight keywords in bright colours, look at the teacher  when he talks while writing things down as you will remember easier that way

 - If you are an auditory person (who learns best by hearing things), recite things out loud, make up songs about your subject matter, record your notes with your cellphone and play it back to yourself ;

- If you are a tactile person (who learns by touching things), walk around the room, chew gum or even squeeze a ball while you are studying ; use role-playing with another learner or teach him/her what you have just learnt.

When you study, 
-Ask questions to yourself : why and when did it happen ? how does it work ? What is the concept behind this? What are the uses of this concept? etc.

-Read the text slowly and try to find the answers
-Take notes and summarize the text with your own words

-Review what you have read by doing a summary, or drawing a map, diagram, etc …you will memorise facts and terminology better if you make connections and learn information associatively

-Practice past exam papers and revision questions

-Use revision books (X kit are very good)

Busi: "You need to  find your own method of studying. For instance,  when I was reading the life sciences or economics books, I told myself I was reading a wonderful novel. I would write notes, do  summaries  during the year. To remember well, I would repeat what I had learned in front of a mirror, like if I was teaching a class".

6. Block out distractions!
Switch off your cellphone, TV and other sources of distraction when you study; use earplugs (buy them at Click) to cut the noise around you.
If it is too noisy at home, study at your school or local library. Try to do your homework at the school library during lunch break.

Kamogelo  I deleted my WhatsApp and Facebook account in matric so  I wouldn't be distracted.

Tshepo Kobe on the sofa where he was sleeping

Tshepo : 
"I study on a sofa next to the TV. If there was too much noise, I would use the earplugs that my mentor gave me. 

"Make sure not to get addicted to TV. If you like music, use it to get motivation. If you like to watch movies, find educative movies"

Mitchell : "From Prelim, I told my girlfriend I had to focus on my studies".

7. Stay away from stress!

"It is important to stay away from things that upset or disturb you in these final days before you write. This is not a good time to pick a fight with your parents or boyfriend or girlfriend. Your job is to stay calm at all times". 
(Prof Jonathan Jansen)
Brillant : "Mitvah teachers put a lot of pressure on me and I had nearly a breakdown. Music helped me to cope with stress and relax".

Busi Mtya : "Screaming and yelling out “words of frustration” helped me to cope with stress. My little sister can be a pain. My mom was the most supportive, even though  she would accuse me of making my studying excuse not to do my chores. We had problems at home but my mum tried to reassure meeverything would be fine".
The more you study, the less you will feel anxious ; if you are scared to fail, put an extra effort now : fear will stimulate you to prepare better !
Do not panic:
"The key is to remain calm and rely on what you already know and your preparation in the various school subjects since Grade 10 and even earlier. If you panic, you are likely to forget important information because when you are stressed you cannot think or recall clearly. Listen to music. Find a Trevor Noah DVD and have a good laugh the night before the exams".
(Prof Jonathan Jansen)
If you suffer from panic attack (rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, shaking, sweating, etc) because you feel you don’t have enough time or you are not ready for your exams, do something easy like writing your name backwards, breath deeply and do some physical exercise. Your panic will pass. If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t feel comfortable speaking to your parents, speak to your school’s counsellor, your mentor or call Lifeline on 0861 322 322.
8. Stay healthy!
Have small, frequent meals to maintain blood and brain sugar levels (heavy meals and junk food make you feel sluggish)

Drink lots of water, to keep your body steady
Avoid sugary soft drinks (it might be more difficult to concentrate) and stimulants, including coffee (they only give you a boost for a short time, followed by a “crash”)

To help you sleep, drink a glass of milk at bedtime.

Writing exams for 3 hours at a stretch is very tiring - your hands, arms and upper body ache. Concentrating for 3 hours is also exhausting. To prepare for this, you must try to work for 3 hours at a stretch. Practice past papers in simulated exam condition (without memos, breaks, music, water,e tc)
9. Writing the exam..
Sleep well the night before !

On the morning before the exam, eat a good breakfast and drink water.

If you fell anxious, balance your breathing : breath in for 7 seconds, hold and breath out for 7 seconds. Do this several times and your mind will start to relax

Read through all the instructions and each question, understand well the question before answering : this is the most important factor !

Write down key words on the response to the question or draw a quick mind map

Start by the easiest questions : it builds up your confidence and make it easier for you to tackle the more difficult questions

Stay calm and if you are stressed, put down your pen, close your eyes, take  few deep breaths and relax all your muscles

Often your intuition will lead you  to answer the questions you don’t know
10. Keep perspective!
"If you do poorly in the exams, it is not the end of the world. You can retake the examination or do a bridging course to university. Many of my best students took an additional year before they entered the mainstream degree. In fact, one of my three Dux students this year came through a bridging course and now she is a top student in the actuarial sciences. Whatever you do, do not harm yourself. One examination can never be a judgment on your worth as a human being and a potential scholar of the future".
(Prof Jonathan Jansen)


You can also improve others skills which will be important for your future

·    brain trainer :

 Where can I get help in Alexandra  ?
Ma Afrika Tikkum on 16 th avenue (close to the Police station on 15th) used to offer free of charge homework classes  everyday. High school learners can also use the Library to do their homework- info 087 741 1020

Some of our students also can help you with extra tuition for free (please contact Valerie)
Good luck! Be smart!


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